(February 28, 2020) – Today the Diocese of Buffalo announced it has filed for bankruptcy following a recent wave of child sex abuse lawsuits brought against the Catholic Church – the second such bankruptcy in New York State since September. Since mid-August, hundreds of child sex abuse lawsuits have been brought against the Diocese of Buffalo in the aftermath of New York’s groundbreaking Child Victims Act which opened a one-year “lookback” window that allows previously time-barred survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice regardless of when their abuse occurred.
The Diocese of Buffalo’s bankruptcy filing will begin a process in which a bankruptcy judge will oversee the division of the Diocese’s assets in a way that is fair to all survivors who timely file claims in the bankruptcy.
“Abuse survivors need to understand the Diocese has assets and insurance. A bankruptcy is simply a way to give the Diocese a legal ‘time out’ from the current litigation so that one judge can ultimately decide a fair way to compensate all people who timely file a claim in the bankruptcy,” said Michael T. Pfau, a sexual abuse attorney at Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala (PCVA) who has represented thousands of abuse survivors and who played a key role in major bankruptcy proceedings against Catholic Dioceses in other states. “The ‘bankruptcy’ process has been utilized by the Catholic Church to resolve claims involving at least 20 different Catholic dioceses and religious orders across the country. Bankruptcy allows the Diocese to restructure its assets and finances to continue operating while also providing some measure of accountability for child sexual abuse claims. Now is the time for Buffalo survivors to come forward and file a claim with the bankruptcy court in order to ensure their rights are protected.”
The bankruptcy judge will ultimately announce a deadline by which individuals must file claims for any alleged abuse. This deadline is called a “bar date” deadline because people will likely be forever “barred” from filing a claim against the Diocese after the deadline.
PCVA and its co-counsel, the Marsh Law Firm, have filed 18 cases against the the Diocese of Buffalo. The firms have collectively represented hundreds of abuse survivors in substantial and complex bankruptcy proceedings around the country, including the Rochester Diocese, the Spokane Diocese, the Pacific Northwest Order of Jesuit Priests, the Christian Brothers of Ireland, and the Milwaukee Archdiocese. In bankruptcy proceedings for the Oregon Province Society of Jesus, PCVA represented almost 140 survivors in one of the largest Catholic clergy settlements in the nation.
“These bankruptcy proceedings should not and will not prevent survivors from seeking justice and accountability in Buffalo,” saidJames R. Marsh of the New York-based Marsh Law Firm. “For decades, the Diocese of Buffalo enabled and covered up crimes against the most vulnerable parishioners. We will fight in court and in every venue to ensure the Diocese answers for the lives they endangered and in some cases destroyed.”
PCVA and Marsh Law Firm have filed lawsuits on behalf of survivors against the Buffalo Diocese and the following local entities:
- St. Francis High School
- Basilica of Our Lady of Victory Church and School
- Corpus Christi Church and School
- St. Andrew’s Church and School
- Bishop Turner High School
- Queen of Peace Parish
- Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church and School
- St. Bonaventure Catholic Church
- St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School
- St. Aloysius Church and School
- All Saints Roman Catholic Church and School
- Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and School
- St. Vincent de Paul Church and School
- Queen of Heaven Church and School
- Holy Angels Academy
- Most Precious Blood Catholic Church and School
- St. Joseph Parish (Most Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Parish)
- Saint Peter and Paul Church (Holy Apostles Parish)
- St. Mary of the Lake Church and School